Shrine Bowl Interview: Kadeem Telfort’s Development On-And-Off The Field Make Him An Intriguing Offensive Tackle Prospect

One of the most intriguing players at the 2023 East-West Shrine Bowl is UAB offensive tackle Kadeem Telfort. Telfort is a massive human, as he measured at at 6’7, 319 pounds. Not only that, but Telfort has 37-inch arms and a wingspan well over eight feet. For reference, NFL teams consider 34-inch arms to be a good size. He was the anchor of an offensive line at UAB that ran for 253.3 yards per game and had the nation’s leading rusher in DeWayne McBride all while playing under an interim head coach. I had the chance to speak with Telfort today at the Luxor Hotel about his journey to get to where he is today.

Telfort began his college career at Florida as a four-star offensive tackle out of Booker T. Washington High School in Miami. His career at Florida wouldn’t last long though, as he was suspended for the entire 2017 season after an investigation into credit card fraud involving Telfort and eight other players. After leaving Florida, Telfort went to Garden City Community College in Kansas. That’s where he says he grew up under then-coach Jeffery Simmons.

“Coach Jeffery Simmons just kept it blood-raw with me and just let me know, ‘you’re not as good as you think you are, you’re not the best, you’re immature.’ Just everything in the book,” Telfort said. “So at the time, I kind of felt like he hated me, when he ended up getting another job and leaving, I seen it as a blessing in disguise, because basically he seen what I had in me that I didn’t know I had in me.”

Telfort said his experience at Garden City CC with Simmons led him to start taking football and school more seriously.

“Instead of just playing it, I started now watching more film, taking more notes, looking at blitzes really trying to become a student of the game. At that point, when everything happened, it basically made me in into the man I am today. I don’t take anything for granted. If I start something, I’m going to finish. And if I’m there, I’m going to attack it.”

Attack it is what he did at UAB. He started all 13 games as a redshirt junior, helping the UAB rushing attack gain 2,737 yards on the season and was a Conference USA honorable mention. One of his best games that season came against the eventual national champions in Georgia. Before his redshirt senior season, he was voted a captain.

“I’m not a vocal leader,” Telfort said. “I’m just moreso an action leader. I’ll just go out, do what I’m supposed to do. But it’s my last year, I realized with a group of young guys, you can’t just be an action leader. You gotta be moreso vocal and action,” he explained. “What I used to preach to them, like ‘bro, I’ve been through the worst, like if you ever think about going left bro, ‘ so I kind of was the guy on the team with all the trials and tribulations. So I always had a story for someone. So it got to a point coach made me a leader, and they voted me to be a leader. Ever since then, I was just happy to lead my guys.”

Before Telfort’s final season, UAB head coach Bill Clark stepped down due to health issues. In his place, Bryant Vincent took over, a man that Telfort referred to as a “father figure” for the whole team. Telfort played his best football under Vincent, leading a potent UAB rushing attack while being named All-First Team Conference USA in eight starts.

UAB’s season ended with a win over Miami (OH) in the Bahama Bowl, a game where Telfort said the team rallied behind Vincent after it was announced a few weeks before the game he would be replaced by Trent Dilfer as head coach.

More important than the game though, Telfort, who was already the first in his family to graduate high school, also became the first in his family to graduate college.

“It means a lot because I have six little sisters, and me just graduating high school, and my mom puts the diploma in my living room, it just gives them motivation. I was looking for that motivation in my older sister, but she didn’t graduate high school and I seen the heartbreak on my mom’s face, so I just told her I’ll complete high school and I’ll make sure to complete college,” Telfort said. “Then, I end up getting my associate’s, then when I took the last, I got bachelor’s, it was like all my little sisters, all they talk about is going to college now. So it’s like, I kind of put that in their head.”

Telfort said to prepare for the NFL he’s working on cleaning up his technique and some details in his game that can help him string together multiple good reps. At UAB, he worked in a zone running scheme that he said was designed to get the defense running sideways before “we going to hit you in the mouth.” He also said he could play either right or left tackle in the league.

He’s also worked hard to lose weight, as he said he was around 360 pounds when he first got to UAB. While he said he coaches told him he moved well for his size, he began to take nutrition more seriously to become even better.

At this point, Telfort projects as a later-round, likely Day 3 prospect. But his physical traits are certainly appealing, and he has high-level college production. His issues are with his technique and being consistent with his technique, and that’s something he recognized.

“It really shows when I get tired. The raw aspect of me, it won’t be as clean, or maybe I’ll give you three or four clean reps in a row and the next two will look bad.”

Telfort’s probably a guy who would greatly benefit from a year of development with NFL coaching. With the Steelers have Chukwuma Okorafor under contract through 2024 and Dan Moore Jr.‘s future as a starter up in the air, Telfort could be a guy the Steelers look to later in the draft if they don’t address the tackle position early. He has all the physical tools to be a starter in the league, and if he cleans up his technique and gets NFL coaching, he’s a guy who could potentially be a late-round diamond in the rough.

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